‘11th hour’ withdrawal of Horizon View development plan

       Withdrawn from the agenda shortly before the City Council meeting Oct. 27, the Horizon View development proposal is not likely to resurface for at least another year.
       “Economically, it's a tough deal,” said Bill Guman, the contracted land planner for property owner Dr. Kristin Hembre. The problem, he explained, was finding an economical way to develop the five-acre property off Mesa Road in keeping with neighborhood wishes for just three lots. He said his client's actions might also be influenced by what kind of people are on City Council a year from now.
       The property in question is at 1635 Mesa Road, across the street from the 7-acre Rawles Open Space that's overseen by the non-profit Palmer Land Trust.
       City Council had first heard the matter last April. After being swayed by residents who argued that the homes in that neighborhood (around the Rawles Open Space) are distinctive in terms of their large lots, single-story styles, sizable front setbacks and access (individual driveways rather than a cul-de-sac layout as proposed for Horizon View), councilmembers postponed the proposal. The idea, as explained at the time, was to give Guman time to revise the plan from the proposed 5 lots to 3.
       This he did, although going into the Oct. 27 meeting, neighbors were displeased that Guman/Hembre still insisted on two-story structures, according to George Maentz, a Mesa Road resident who has been involved in the neighborhood response to the project. Still, the height difference between the two sides was only 5 feet (the proposal was for 25 feet maximum; the neighborhood wanted 18 to 20). “I suspect we could have gone to City Council and talked through it,” he said.
       Guman said Hembre made an “11th hour” decision, shortly before the Oct. 27 council meeting, that the reduction to three lots just wouldn't work for her financially. The anticipation has been that after houses are constructed on the lots, they could be sold for no more than $750,000 to $850,000 each; however, such an amount still might not be enough to offset the costs of site planning and preparatory work, Guman explained. “She ran the numbers and they didn't work,” he said.
       He pointed out that original Horizon View plans had called for nine lots, but “after the first neighborhood meeting we realized that would be a tough sell.” So the plan was reworked to five lots, he said. This plan was approved first by planning staff, then Planning Commission, based on findings that it met all the requirements of the zoning code and basic compatibility with the area. Paying a $175 fee each time, the residents appealed first the staff approval, then the commission approval, which allowed the issue to come before council.
       Maentz said the neighborhood was not trying to be difficult, but residents feel strongly about the uniqueness of their neighborhood. He thought the issue could have been handled more smoothly if communication had been better. Neighbors had only been asked to meet twice with Guman since the council postponement, he said.

Westside Pioneer article